Cabbage Pie – cabbage, eggs, dill and quick mayonnaise-based batter – delicious lunch or dinner perfect for any time of the year. Healthy and low carb.
I find myself apologizing and bending the truth. Did I really add three tablespoons? I am sure I could safely say it was only two. I am sorry I used it, but the rest of the ingredients were healthy and nutritious. Or, maybe I could omit it altogether? I know the flavour would be different, but it would surely still taste good, right?
I always feel guilty using mayonnaise when cooking. And I know exactly why.
Mayo dominated Soviet cuisine for the past hundred years. With no variety and no access to sauces, and condiments, mayo, mustard and ketchup (less common) were the only available options. Even in the 20th century, dressing salad in mustard did not seem like a good idea. And so people experimented and Soviet food was born – smothered in mayo, with piped mayo rosettes on the side.
In the late 90s, at the dawn of culinary Internet, just as I started becoming interested in cooking, there was a mayo backlash all over Russian websites. Breaking out of their Soviet shell, Russians finally had access to ingredients and techniques that were only glimpsed in foreign films before. Mayo was out; yogurt was in.
Countless cooking forums condemned the use of mayo and I, regrettably, got caught in the anti-mayo frenzy. I denounced my childhood favourites: French meat (one-inch thick beef slices, sprinkled with onion, drowned in mayo, covered in cheese, and baked to a slow and leathery death for three hours); herring under fur coat (herring, onion, boiled potatoes, eggs, beets all layered onto a platter with a thick coating of mayo between each ingredient); and cheese salad (grated Havarti-like cheese, garlic, mayo – simplicity at its best). I avoided any recipes where mayo played a major role. I used sour cream instead, and later Greek yogurt. I turned away from my background, my memories, my grandmother’s food.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been apologizing for the use of mayo in my cooking. But something changed recently. I want to say I became older and wiser, but that’s not true. Older – yes. Wiser – doubtful. I became more retrospective. I no longer want to distance myself from my Russian heritage. Instead I want to embrace it in the form of the food I make. I want to honour my grandparents, their life, and their love in my cooking. And so I find myself looking for those classic Soviet recipes that my grandmother used to make, full of mayonnaise and nostalgia. I continue making substitutions and decreasing the amount of mayonnaise. Yogurt is still in, but mayo is back.
My grandmother was famous for her cabbage pies – not just one, she made many kinds. Everyone in the family had their favourite. Grandpa loved the kind with crust made of farmers’ cheese, butter, and flour, reminiscent of traditional pie dough but still pliable and flakey. Mom liked cabbage pie with a few layers of thin strudel dough. The thinness of the pastry allowed her the fantasy that she wasn’t indulging in a fat-laden and carb-rich pie. I liked yet another kind made with thick yeasty dough: feather light, slightly sweetened, and full of butter and egg yolks. But really I loved them all: thick and thin, soft and crisp; all made with years of experience, all made with unconditional love.
Years later, already in Canada, elaborate yeast doughs and thin strudel layers became too difficult for my grandma to manage. Still, she’d indulge us once a year in her made-from-scratch cabbage pies. Growing older she started using ready-made puff pastry and quick mayonnaise batter. The first time I tried that new and unfamiliar mayo version of the pie, I loved it. The top crust was soft, spongy, and savoury. My grandma smiled at me waiting for questions, anticipating a request for the recipe. But once I found out it was made with excoriated mayo, I did not write the recipe down and refused a second helping.
I still remember the last time I had my grandmother’s cabbage pie, a few short months before she passed away. We had dinner at my mom’s place – three generations of women, all born in the country that no longer exists, all living in the country that only I call home. I asked my grandma to bring her famous cabbage pie. I was hoping she’d make the one with fluffy bread dough, but she was 80 years old and used store-bought puff pastry. I was disappointed, but taking the first bite still transported me back to my childhood. The filling of the pie was just as I expected: chopped and cooked cabbage mixed with boiled and diced eggs — bathed in melted butter. I remember my grandma looking at me expectantly, worrying that I’d complain about the different kind of dough. I told her I loved it and asked for the recipe.
I never got my grandma’s mayo cabbage pie recipe, so this one I developed in her memory. And if you like quick and easy savoury pies, then you should definitely try to make my Pulled Pork and Peppers Pie which is a variation of this Cabbage Pie.
- 4 cups savoy cabbage (shredded)
- 1/3 cup dill chopped
- 3 large eggs (boiled and chopped)
- salt pepper to taste
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup mayo
- 2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup flour
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Prepare the filling
- Boil shredded cabbage for about 10 minutes until soft. Drain, squeeze excess liquid and cool.
- Mix cooled cabbage, dill, and chopped eggs. Add seasoning as required.
Prepare the batter
- In a large bowl whisk together eggs, greek yogurt, and mayo until well combined.
- Add sugar if using.
- Add baking powder and flour. Mix well.
- The batter will be the consistency of a very thick yogurt.
Assemble the pie
- Butter the 9 inch pie plate, place the filling in the pie dish, pour the batter over and spread.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the batter is golden brown and is springy to the touch.
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Looks so yummy, definitely going to try this! And I am glad you are Proud of your Russian heritage.
Екатерина Беляева says
Очень,очень,очень вкусно! Никогда не слышала про такой рецепт, как яблочная "шарлотка")))Спасибо большое! Сделала и сама съела почти половину???? Кошка пыталась украсть кусочек)))
Спасибо, очень рада, что понравилось! Да, я тоже, когда делала, то думала. что это на шарлотку похоже только соленую. И мои кошки тоже пытались украсть кусочек, я им яйцо дала из пирога.
Heidi @ Food Doodles says
I have to say what always draws me to your blog is your beautiful photography, but today what pulled me in was your amazing writing. I honestly could not stop, you’re such a great storyteller :). And your pie looks fantastic. I’m all for yogurt and healthier alternatives, but sometimes you just need mayo and none of that low fat stuff either! 🙂
Heidi – thank you so very much for your kind words. I really appreciate them. It’s so nice to get the acknowledgement for the work I do. I enjoy cooking and photographing and writing, but it still is work, so hearing that people appreciate it and like is always a nice bonus. Thank you. Happy holidays!
Angela Chu says
This is a wonderful recipe with a beautiful story behind it. Happy holidays and blessing to you and your loved ones. <3
Thank you so much, Angela. Happy holidays to you and your family!
I think cabbage is totally underrated. It looks amazing! I have a head of cabbage ear marked for this recipe!
Holley – I hope you try this recipe and like it!
La Cuisine d'Helene says
Would be so good for Christmas morning!
Totally! It’s cabbage, but you are right, it’s a very morning dish.
Candice | Everybody Loves Pretty says
This looks awesome! I oddly feel guilty when using mayo as well!! Especially in salad dressings… Sure tastes good though!
Haha – I am trying to overcome my mayo resistance 🙂
Ashley - The Recipe Rebel says
Beautiful story Julia! Grandma’s recipes are always the best. One of my favorite things to do since my Grandma passed away is to recreate some of the same things she used to make all the time.
My pie is now in the oven. Can’t wait for it to be ready, have to go sleep 🙂
Thank you so much! How did the pie turn out?
Jared Kovacs says
I loved reading your story! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Jared! I’m glad people are liking it. It was emotional writing it.
What a poignant and lovely story.
Thank you, Teresa!
Jason Sandeman says
What a lovey dish! I have some cabbage my wife is bugging me to use up. I also think some rainbow chard would be nice in this too. I’ll have to give it a go!
Jason, thank you! This one can be made with many fillings. Even just chopped boiled eggs and dill without any cabbage.
Trish @infinebalance says
I have this massive cabbage in my fridge and I’ve been looking for something do do with it. Love this recipe and that it is not overly time consuming. Pinned this one for later.
Trish – it is a quick recipe and I hope you make it. Thank you.
That was a beautiful story of the food memories which tie us to those we love across the years and the generations. Long after every link to our roots, even language, has disappeared, food memories stay.
I cannot get Savoy cabbage but I am going to think about a filling combining something with ordinary cabbage to perk it up. Maybe some chard. I really need an excuse to use that topping!
Frances – thank you very much for your kind words. I find food and memory so integrated that I can’t think of one without another.
As for the cabbage, my grandma used regular cabbage, it just takes a lot longer to boil. I use Savoy just to reduce the cooking time.